Friday, April 28, 2017

13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

We decided to watch the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”.  We found the series to be powerful statement about a number of issues that impact people in adolescent but also for people in adult life. Warning (spoiler alert of sorts) however, the series touches on some sensitive subjects that people (especially youth) should be aware.  The angst of school pressures, bullying, cyber-bullying, depression, suicide and assault are forefront issues that the series showcases.  Each of these deserves a proper conversation in on their own.

There are merits to what the producers were doing with the series and the many questions they pose to viewers—specifically with respect to suicide.  The series reminded me of conversations I have had with others and of my own experiences.  With that in mind, People should be aware of what kind of things may result from watching “13 Reasons Why”.

·         Some vulnerable people watching this, without guidance, may be more seriously impacted than others. 
·         Watching the events unfold could have the unintended effect of triggering one’s own memory and pain points.
·         Parents may consider viewing of the series with their children and it may be a worthy conversation starter.  
·         Those who find themselves aligning with characters or experiences of the show need to know they are not alone. Depression is real and has traumatic impacts. People do not need to walk alone.
·         People who need help do not always know how to ask for help.  If you are, or you suspect someone, is suicidal or needs help, one thing we can do is reach out and talk. 
·         Be mindful of mood shifts, depression, feeling trapped, sudden interest in finality, being a burden, substance abuse, withdrawal and isolation as these can be signs of more serious issues.
·         If you, or someone, is seriously considering suicide, --especially if they have a plan-- do not ignore this and get help Now.

Remember to hug the ones you love.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:



Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday memorial

Over the past week, our Jewish neighbors have been celebrating the Passover of the Lord (Pesach). We are grateful for the liberation from slavery in Egypt (the story of the ten plagues as described in Exodus).

Today for Christian community, we remember the sacrifices that came before us especially that of the torture, community betrayal, and state execution of Jesus.  This day memorializes a vicious funeral procession that began with betrayal by closest friends, exile and condemnation by religious leaders, and finally death sentence by the political elite to silence him. Further, the story is told about personal degradation with bullying and mocking, whips and beatings, bruises and blood, reduction and humiliation, and finally excruciating death at the hands of violent and capricious people eager to put to death the powerful mission.

That forced death march becomes a timeless and powerful symbol of dedication to God, of dedication to something bigger than ourselves, of martyrs, of social outcasts, of a state execution, of terror and of insane violence. The sacrifices of that day (and the many brothers and sisters that followed) however would not be forgotten. Though some may distort the mission and Truth to this day, the Truth of that mission resurrected and gives us liberty today.

Thus, the Passover began the process of liberation. We can link that liberation with the sacrifice memorialized today as a reaffirmation of deliverance (that the Truth shall set you free). The Truth of dignity, compassion, liberation and redemption of every person would not die. This Truth gave (continues to give) hope to billions around the world. That Truth can still give us much needed hope in our struggles today.

May we remember the sacrifices with honor, and may we embody this Truth in remembrance.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Worthy Procession - Luke 19

A Worthy Procession
Tony E Dillon Hansen
9 April 2017

Sermon based upon Luke 19:29-44

Will you pray with me?  Let God guide our senses, our hearts and our ears to receive the lesson given to us.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, Our Redeemer.

Well folks today, with Palm Sunday, Easter candy is almost sold-out in some places
we are on the last-leg of our journey through Lent!
How many of you that made Lenten promises made it this far? one week? A day?
You should give yourself a round of applause for making it this far!

Since Jesus instructs the disciples to get a donkey …
I would like to tell you a story about a peculiar incident involving a mule. 
These two friends Sven and Ole just bought a mule,
but for some reason they cannot seem to get it into the barn. 
Sven says, “I know the problem. He won’t fit through the door; his ears are too long!”
Ole thinks a bit, then says, “I know what we can do. We can raise the barn by a foot so he’ll fit.”
Sven thinks a bit and says, “Wouldn’t it be easier to dig a ditch for to walk in?”
Ole says, “Oh don’t be a goof! It’s his ears that are too long not his legs!”


Now that I have your attention,
Let us carefully consider what is so important about Palm Sunday celebration.
Luke characterizes the story of arrival that sounds like grand and jubilant parade.
Listen to the sights and sounds.

Let us consider how and why parades usually form.
In our day, there is probably a festival (e.g. July 4th, St Patrick’s).
Thus, most are planned well in advance.
Many floats line up ready for the procession. 
Parents and gleeful Kids line up with open bags at the ready.
“Candy, Candy, Candy!”
Imaginations go wild with excitement and “Candy, Candy, Candy!”

Incidentally, when I was younger and my parents moved our family to Kansas,
We learned about a parade celebrating Dodge City Days –a Western festival. 
Like any Iowa kids, my brother and I were excited
and thinking, “Candy, Candy, Candy!”.
We lined up ready and with our bags at the ready!
Wouldn’t you know it,
not one piece of candy was thrown our way,
Instead, we were given a couple wooden nickels—oh yea… 
Turns out that Kansas does not believe in candy-tossing parades like Iowa.

Back to our lesson, In First century-Rome (including Palestine),
parades were long processions often thrown in celebration of
installation of new governor or emperor,
or some recent Roman triumph.
I am not sure if candy was tossed out.
There would the vanquished, exotic animals (yeah a traveling circus), followed by troops and officers

In stark contrast, however, Jesus has a much simpler approach
On a solitary donkey,
with a ragtag band of followers,
no fancy robes,
no generals around,
no trumpets blaring, and no emperors,
Things looked little less “imperial”.
Jesus makes way with subdued appearance.
As Jesus arrives, however, people around the gate were lining up
Many with their own emptiness and cloaks waiting.

One must ask why do people line up for this small procession?
If you think about it,
some did this to witness, for themselves, what they heard about Jesus.
Remember, “A whisper in the ear can be heard for miles”
We know how that “whisper” story can change.
Our people have a lot they would like to see changed.

Theologians tell us about some tales preceding Jesus here
and some are even argued to this day-- like:

1)     Some heard that Jesus is a great king: one from the line of King David.
a.     This is likely a reason many throw down their cloaks
b.     also, we know this is used by the Romans later to mock Jesus.
2)     Another, some heard Jesus could invoke the will of God
a.     (maybe a Disney World-style Magic and Light show was coming)
b.     A people sarcastically make fun of Jesus for this while on the cross.
3)     Perhaps some thought that Jesus would fill their bags
a.     with gold or fish and bread --like in his previous ministry.
4)     Some heard about being a great miracle worker with great wisdom filling people with hope.
a.     (a Messiah)
b.     Luke makes a specific point about arriving from the East.

Let me ask Which of these were you looking for?
Those are some big perceptions of Jesus as we approach the city gates.
With these kinds of expectations and stories,
People did not care about grand fanfare, trumpets or soldiery, royalty.
They instead start shouting A Christmas Carol for praises

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!
Peace in heaven,
And glory in the highest heaven!”

What they saw was that whisper become reality,
they saw that Jesus is real and is one of us!
They witnessed, they believed and the hope was rising.


Even so, there were others that also heard these rumors
But with envy and jealousy in their hearts.
They heard the excitement
And maybe a few were a little too jealous of this reception.
What were these people saying, conjuring and plotting?
Instead of the rays of hope that many have heard about Jesus;
These cohorts perceive Jesus as a threat to order and tradition.

So, They complain to Jesus that the people are noisy
This little-horse parade is too exciting for them.
Again, these cohorts are more interested in “order” than “justice.”
Jesus reminds the whiners
that for too long people lived without hope,
saying “if these [people] were silent, the stones would shout out!”

For Jesus continues his mission.
There is some cleansing to do in the city
Many wrongs to make right,
Much corruption to correct.
He has more homeless shelters to visit,
More compassion to teach,
More sick to heal,
more lives to comfort,
and more justice to seek.

Jesus recognizes how corrupt our cities have become, 
how careless of basic human decency
cynical of protecting women and minority rights
forsaking God’s call to compassion
and weeps.

Regardless of the threats against him.
Jesus arrives proud.
Jesus knows He has to take on powerful Rome and Herod.
As people too easily overlook “things that make for peace”
Instead of military efforts to solve or to distract from the issues
--a point that one could make about recent attacks in our present conflicts.

Jesus is going to bring the mission to Herod.
With the jubilance of the crowd,
Maybe they would finally listen to the pleas for justice.

Yes, we are irrational people and
Jesus probably knows that we are willing to turn 
against the greatest mission in our world.
Still, Jesus is coming to fulfill the scriptures for salvation of the people.


Thus, we have a small parade.
Jesus bringing these appeals to the powerful. 
This coming week, we observe the final days,
The horrendous Passion of our LORD and
We know the powerful will not listen and our people turn.
We are reminded of the serious nature of what Jesus has done for us
as we are reminded of the path of pain, torture and execution.

Despite these coming events,
This day is a remarkable time for Jesus.
For all the suffering Jesus must endure during the next few days,
Jesus is praised-- and hope is rising. 

Despite the speculations,
Despite our suffering,
we do not have to wonder aimlessly.
Instead, we know about the triumph that comes from this suffering.

Because of this Passion,
we know that Jesus knows and shares in our suffering,
that experience transformed the lives of billions to give us Hope,
that we can have faith that there is a purpose,
and that there is a life for us when we believe in the possible.

We can live in this moment.

We know that this is the one moment where our people
personally, reward Jesus with the jubilation so well deserved.
For once jubilation is given to the One who has given so much to us.
Let this jubilation fill your heart with hope and love of Christ!

Today we rise with hope, waving branches,
anticipating something and someone
bigger than we can imagine.
We do not have to worry about
Holding an empty bag
Because Christ came to fill our hearts with hope and compassion

For this day, yes this day!
we can give proper praise and thanks
That this is the day the Lord has made
Let us rejoice and be glad in Him!

Thanks Be to God! 
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